On Talking With Veterinarians About Vegan Food
We have a request, and it's an issue I've written about a handful of times but never had this particular question answered by readers: How do you talk with your vet–who is against feeding your dog vegan food–about your choice to do so? What do you say?
I'm fortunate to have a regular (non-specialist) vet who has no problem at all with a vegan diet for dogs. I've never discussed that Emily the kitty eats one meal of Ami vegan kibble on most days (and one of canned, animal-based food). She is doing fine with that. No change in anything about her, though I do think she's a bit perkier.
Violet the diabetic greyhound does very well as a vegan as her recent blood work demonstrated. Charles the lame greyhound doesn't process grains well at all. He never has. He fares best (as evidenced by poop, energy, licking, scratching, and severity of limping) on food with no grains whatsoever and very high animal protein–almost carnivore level.
Home cooking for Violet was difficult because her carb/protein/fat ratios need to be consistent in order for her blood sugar to be predictable. I had to make exactly the same meal for her every day, so I moved to using Natural Balance Vegetarian kibble (note that the canned version is not vegan due to the animal source of Vitamin D3). I did try other vegan dog foods, but I like the ingredients in Natural Balance best. There are plenty of vegan treats on the market, but my hounds prefer bananas, strawberries, blueberries or broccoli.
Because Violet and Charles are chock full of medical issues, they have a handful of specialists. There's the acupuncturist/chiropractor, opthamologist, orthopedist, neurologist, physical therapist and the trainer. None of those approve of a vegan diet and all it took was one conversation, and me hearing that "they have to eat meat" from people who believe people "have to eat meat" to know that the issue wasn't ever going to be resolved.
My regular vet is a curious guy who doesn't think he knows everything and when something happens that he hasn't encountered (e.g., Charles had a corn on his pad), he's happy for me to bring him some research and for us to tackle the issue together (we did this with the corn and removed it together–and no charge, by the way). If he didn't know about feeding dogs vegan food, I might have brought him some of these articles and I would have referred him to Vegan Dogs: Compassionate Nutrition or to VegetarianDogs.com.
I'd question whether the vet needs to know what my dogs are eating or is in a position to judge as long as they are healthy. I recently told my osteopath that I'm a vegan and got all kinds of grief. Then she saw my fantastic blood work and vitals and didn't say another word.
Meanwhile, my husband, who has been vegan for less than 2 years (straight from omni), takes supplements sporadically, and had very low B12. I take fewer supplements and my B12 was high. The message here, like the message with the dogs, is that everyone is different and we don't respond uniformly to the same food or supplements. The ideal scenario is to establish a baseline, whether it's your blood work or your dog's, or other observables such as behavior, scratching, poop, breath, energy level, and then make the change (supplements, food, whatever) and retest in three months and six months to see the direction and progress. For all we know, my husband was B12 deficient as an omnivore. His levels are fine now, but if we didn't check them (and those of the creatures), we wouldn't have figured all of this out.
Back to the questions: Do you arm yourself with research and go to the vet to educate him/her? Do you not say anything at all or lie when they ask you what the animal eats? (My vet asks every time I go.) Do you politely say that you've done the research and are convinced that a vegan diet is perfectly appropriate for most dogs and has the added bonus of not putting you in a position where you're supporting the needless slaughter of other animals?